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Wealthiest 1% Took Home 82% of Global Wealth in 2017

The wealthiest 1 percent of the global population secured 82 percent of the global wealth created in 2017, according to an Oxfam International report published on Jan. 21, while 3.7 billion adults saw no wealth increase.

Oxfam is a nonprofit organization that works in more than 90 nations “to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions.”

Key data points in the report include:

  • Another person became a billionaire every two days in 2017, bringing the global total to 2,043.
  • Ninety percent of the world’s billionaires are men.
  • Forty-two people in the world now hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion people.
  • Three people in the U.S. now have as much wealth as half the U.S. population.
  • Billionaires saw a $762 billion increase in wealth last year – “enough to end extreme poverty three times over.”
  • From 2006 to 2015, the wealth of billionaires increased by 13 percent while the average income for ordinary workers increased only 2 percent.
  • The bottom 10 percent of global workers saw an average annual income increase of only $3 from 1980 to 2016.
  • One percent of the world holds more wealth than the remaining 99 percent.

“The mainstream economic justification of inequality is that it provides incentives for innovation and investment. We are told that billionaires are the ultimate demonstration of the benefits of talent, hard work and innovation, and that this benefits us all,” Oxfram said. “Yet there is growing evidence that the current levels of extreme inequality far exceed what can be justified by talent, effort and risk-taking. Instead they are more often the product of inheritance, monopoly or crony connections to government.”

Two-thirds of all billionaires acquire their wealth through one of these three means, the report estimated.

“Of course, the remaining third can be further questioned: a billionaire may have made their money in a competitive market free of cronyism, but have done so by paying poverty wages or avoiding taxation, for example,” Oxfam noted. “In short, today’s levels of extreme wealth cannot be assumed to be the product of hard work or talent, and they can also be built on unacceptable moral foundations.”

The full report is available here.